The only difference between adventure and disaster is preparedness.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mt. St. Helens: Pearls of Wisdom

We are coming up on the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Hallmark tells us that the traditional gift for a 30th anniversary is pearls. Well, I can't afford a string of pearls that would fit around the mountain, so I'll just settle for sharing some pearls of wisdom with you. I grew up in Castle Rock, in the shadow of the mountain. I have been inundated with volcano stories, ash spoils, tacky trinkets and stupid tourist questions for the past 20 years. (Although not even half as much as my husband who worked at the CineDome for years answering such jewels as "How long does it take for a deer to grow into an elk?" and "What time does the volcano blow each day?")

I wasn't born when the mountain blew, a fact which really seems to annoy people, but I did spend a summer volunteering at the Exhibit Hall and also cleaned rooms at the Mt. St. Helens Motel surrounded by tourists. I had thought that I knew a lot when it came to St. Helens. I didn't realize how wrong I was until my boss asked me (told me) to come up with a presentation about what would happen if Mt. St. Helens erupted today. I whined and tried to weasel my way out saying I wasn't born when it happened but, I'm serious, that really does annoy people and it didn't work. Anyway, after interviewing a few law enforcement types and doing a lot of research on what actually happened between March and May 18th of 1980, I really did learn a lot.

The only perspective I had was of a kid annoyed at camera clad tourists clogging up the pizza joint. Now a card carrying adult and emergency management type, I have a much different appreciation for the challenges of the eruption and the aftermath. I'll share my conclusions to the question of what would happen if the volcano erupted in 2010 in a few installments over the next few days.

If you are interested in learning more about the eruption and the Daily News' role in the reporting, please check out Bob Gaston, former managing editor of the Daily News, presenting an illustrated program, A Small Newspaper’s Biggest Challenge: Covering The Eruption Of Mt St Helens, at the museum on Thursday, May 6 at 7 PM. In his presentation he will review the challenges and stresses faced by the newspaper’s staff during and following the eruption, and their ultimate success which earned them a Pulitzer Prize.

I had the opportunity a few days ago to read the original news reports from the Daily News from May 19th-21st, 1980. No matter your thoughts on the local paper today, those articles were incredible and they absolutely earned the Pulitzer Prize that they won. I am excited for the presentation and I hope that you will check it out as well.

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